Water is a precious resource that we all share. Not only is it essential to the sustainability of our business, but it’s also fundamentally important to the communities in which we operate. That’s why water stewardship remains key to our environmental sustainability efforts. With this mindset, Coca-Cola announced an aspirational goal in 2007 that we would replenish 100 per cent of the water we use in our finished beverages and their production by 2020. We are proud to have achieved this goal five years early. Setting a global goal to be water neutral was an ambitious one, but in 2015, Coca-Cola became the first Fortune 500 Company to do so.
At Coca-Cola, we replenish water in two ways: through community water partnership programs, such as watershed restoration, and comprehensive wastewater treatment.
Understanding our footprint
In Canada, we work with the municipalities where we have bottling facilities to understand the impact we have on the region’s watersheds. For every bottling facility Coca-Cola operates, both in Canada and around the world, we conduct regular source water assessments. These assessments help us to understand the environmental, infrastructural, and quality risks and to mitigate those risks when necessary.
Replenishment inside our facilities
Water is an important ingredient in our finished products; but it is also required in our operations. Like most manufacturing industries, we need water for our packaging and to ensure that our physical spaces are kept clean and safe. Inside the walls of each of our facilities, Coca-Cola’s goal is to improve water efficiency by 25 per cent by 2020. This means, we are making the necessary investments to use less water while our business continues to grow. To achieve this, we are investing in new technologies and processes such as dry-line lubrication for our conveyor belts and rinsing our bottles with compressed air instead of water. These technologies and processes have helped Coca-Cola Canada conserve over two billion litres of water since 2010 and we are on-track to meet our 2020 goal.
Replenishment in communities
Even though we have met our global goal, our water replenishment work is not finished. In Canada, we continue to work with partners such as Nature Conservancy of Canada to restore the Bow River watershed by reducing erosion and agricultural runoff. “Replenishment” has translated into building a new wetland at Tommy Thompson Park with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and government partners. The new wetland not only provides habitat for wildlife, but will measurably improve water quality for Lake Ontario. These projects and others across Canada and around the world are assessed by an independent third party to validate that they are measurably improving the water quality or quantity in a given watershed—meaning, we are replenishing the freshwater we are using.
We collaborate on replenish projects with governments, NGOs, and other private sector actors in these water stewardship efforts. It’s the right thing to do for communities and nature and it’s important for Coca-Cola as a business. Muhtar Kent, the chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company recently said, “If you aren’t responsibly managing water in your business, you won’t be in business 20 years from now.” It is a wake-up call for all of us to treat water as the important resource it is and take action together.
Ron Soreaunu is a director of public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola in Canada. Joel Longland is a manager of sustainability and stakeholder relations at Coca-Cola Ltd. This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Water Canada.